WASHINGTON — The Coast Guard conducted a training exercise in the Potomac River near the Pentagon amid Sept. 11 commemorations Friday, sparking confusion that scrambled FBI agents and led the nearest airport to briefly ground flights.
Coast Guard Chief Keith Moore said Friday no shots were fired as part of the exercise in the river. Media reports suggested shots had been fired in the river and showed vessels circling in the water, near the bridge where President Barack Obama’s motorcade passed as he traveled to a Sept. 11 memorial at the Pentagon Friday morning.
Departures from Reagan National Airport were halted as a precaution at 10:08 a.m., then resumed at 10:30 a.m., Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Diane Spitaliere said. The airport borders the Potomac.
A law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said federal agents scrambled to the river scene after the initial reports, because the local FBI office had not been told ahead of time about the exercise. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the incident.
Coast Guard spokesman John Edwards said references to shots fired were picked up in radio chatter. As part of its exercise Friday, the Coast Guard aired simulated instructions to participants to fire 10 rounds. But Edwards said there were no shots actually fired and there were no suspicious boats.
Obama had traveled to the Pentagon to lay a wreath in a ceremony commemorating the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
The Department of Homeland Security was created in response to the 9/11 attacks. The Coast Guard and the Secret Service were placed within the department. The massive reorganization was designed to promote sharing of information within the department and among other law enforcement agencies.
Eileen Sullivan/The Associated Press